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Tell Us: Easton's New Parking Hours

City could raise its rates and change the length of time parking meters are enforced. What do you think?

Members of Easton's business community lined up at Wednesday's City Council meeting to express concerns about proposed changes to the city's parking meters.

Council is considering changing the enforcement hours for the meters to 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday to Saturday (noon to 9 p.m. on Sundays) and raising the cost of the meters from 50 cents an hour to $1 per hour.

The aim is to raise money to fund the Greater Easton Development Partnership -- which oversees programs like the Ambassadors and the Easton Main Street Initiative, both designed to help the downtown.

But business owners told Council Wednesday they worry the change will have the opposite effect -- driving people away from Downtown.

Quoted on the Easton Eccentric blog, School of Rock president Ray Thierrin said later parking hours will cost his students' parents, who often drop off their kids and then wait. 

"It will hurt if people have to pay an extra $2 just to enjoy our lobby," Thierrin said. 

Meanwhile, Pastor Andrew Gerns of Trinity Episcopal Church wrote a letter to the city opposing the Sunday parking hours.

"If the meters go into effect at noon, we will have to drastically redesign our Sunday program," the letter reads. "It will make Downtown less attractive for people who want to come to church and stay Downtown for lunch."

He says "if" because Council has yet to vote on the changes. The city is set to have another meeting on the issue Nov. 27.

You can voice your opinion then, and you can also do it now. Post your thoughts in the comments, and take our poll.

Ronnie DelBacco November 16, 2012 at 12:09 PM
Stupid idea. It does nothing to curb wasteful and/or unnecessary spending. If the Mayor and City Council are going to keep taking our tax dollars in the form of state hand-outs...OOPS, I mean "grants", then he could at least transfer that money to use it for necessary services instead of just beautification. (Yes it can be done even though there is some red tape involved. I checked into it.) Raising parking rates and extending meter hours isn't going to increase revenue enough to continue all the spending this mayor approves of. Furthermore, the fancy new sidewalks, nice as they are, designed to increase foot traffic safety won't work either if people can't afford to park in the first place. God help our down town businesses, 'cause this mayor's fees and revenue schemes sure aren't helping them.
Ronnie DelBacco November 16, 2012 at 12:11 PM
PS, Has anyone looked at the UN's Agenda 21 to see just how much of it is creeping into Easton? I'll bet even the elected officials don't realize what's going on. It's not a conspiracy...look it up.
Jon Geeting November 16, 2012 at 12:51 PM
The parking meter prices shouldn't be about revenue, they should be about managing demand for scarce curb parking spaces. Higher turnover is good for businesses and lower turnover is bad. The parking study identified two times of the day when there's a parking crunch downtown - one around noon and one around 8. As any business owner will tell you (when it comes to their own product), if there is a sudden jump in demand and you can't quickly produce more of what you're selling, then either you raise your prices or you run out of product. It's the same with parking. If you want to reduce curb parking congestion and open up a couple more spaces on each block for new customers (rather than the same people hogging the spots all day) then parking rates need to go up during the parking crunch times. A good compromise would be to only raise rates during the parking crunches, and leave them at 50 cents/hour the rest of the time. Also, think about the message you're sending to would-be drunk drivers with the free parking at night during the busy bar hours.
Ronnie DelBacco November 16, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Hi Jon, Good points, however, under your observations, if spot hoggers know they only have an hour or so to worry about, then my guess is they'll just bite the bullet and cough up another buck for the crunch times and remain in the spot anyway. As for drunk drivers...most bar patrons aren't going to be affected at all after 9 PM. So there really is no message being sent to them. They don't feed the meters anyway.
Amend November 16, 2012 at 01:38 PM
@Ronnie- while I have my own concerns regarding the parking proposals (I'm steadfastly against Sunday collection), I think it would be beneficial to the dialogue to offer specifics what making certain statements. What cuts are you implying the mayor should be making, what does Agenda 21 have to do with Easton, and how is it possible for a city to reassign a state sponsored transportation grant for some other purpose? Jon- parking is more than a mathematical equation seeking the greatest return. It's also a matter of hospitality that creates a perception of the community in how it treats it's guests and residence. There has to be balance. I also think varying the rates throughout the day based on demand will become confusing to most. I also agree with Ronnie that unless your going to collect until 2am, there's no reason to assume that parking rates will reduce drunk driving.
Ronnie DelBacco November 16, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Good Morning Amend, Two specific ideas for cuts; 1. Get rid of city wide leaf collection, sell off the equipment, and reduce the amount of city worker hours accordingly. This may be small potatoes, but the principle crosses many other areas of expense tax payers shouldn't be funding. Ex; I have three trees, a leaf blower, and bags. I bought my property knowing ahead of time they are my responsibility. West Ward residents with fewer or no trees at all shouldn't have their tax dollars going to fund my fall clean-up. 2. Regarding The Ambassadors program and similar initiatives; The managing company is out of town and that's where the money goes, I believe. Why? We have non-violent prisoners who need to get fresh air, who need to fulfill community service hours, who would benefit from giving back to the community they hope to return to, and who could do the same clean-up work the Ambassadors do. They don't need fancy 4 wheelers and we already pay for their uniforms. For residents who complain about having to pay for their food, housing, and medical care, this would be a way for them to see prisoners earning their keep so to speak. As for Agenda 21, I'll wait till you look it up for yourself. Since it is lengthy and deeply troubling it deserves it's own coverage and discussion. I suggested reassigning "grant" money to the previous mayor. He said it could be done but there was too much red tape to bother with doing it.
Amend November 16, 2012 at 03:45 PM
@Ronnie- I disagree with the parsing up of the city. Sure, maybe the West Ward has fewer trees (tho I'm not sure of that), but it's also the section of the city that uses the greatest amount of public services in fire and police. Should we then reduce taxes on the residence of college hill since they most likely use the least? As for the ambassadors, it's a misconception that all they do is clean. They are also tasked with hospitality and to some degree public safety. I'm not disagreeing that inmates could and should be utilized to benefit the city, but I doubt you'll get the same product from them that you do from the ambassadors. Further, no one's taxes in the city have been increased to pay for that program. That's a portion of the dialogue around the increased revenue from parking; using those funds to pay for these programs. As for Afenda 21, I took a quick look at it, but I'm not capable of assuming your intention in mentioning it as an issue. Lastly, I've never heard of anyone within the city administration ever implying that they could reappropriate a state sponsored grant for anything other than what it was intended for. Sure, you could petition to shift such funding from one transportation related project to another, but as far as I know, you can't take that same transportation grant and apply it to say, personnel or public art or the like.
Ronnie DelBacco November 16, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Amend, I also agree that parsing up city services is the wrong way to go. I'm suggesting doing away with certain services for everyone...obviously not police, fire, and trash. These types of services (leaf collection) are "nice to have", and I do enjoy them too, but we have to cut spending not add fees and fines. Such luxury services and programs are a good place to start. I would argue that the Ambassadors presence though it may promote the appearance of hospitality, it does not promote better public safety anymore than extended meter hours will promote a better small business environment. Private organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and the BBB are more easily searchable and visitor friendly in communities than the Ambassadors. As for re-appropriating grants, it wouldn't hurt to find out if we're going to keep taking state tax dollars back. When I asked I was assured it could be done but was "just too much of a hassle to bother with". I was left with the impression that he and his administration just didn't want to be bothered with the extra work. The problem really is spending and a different ideology of how to draw people into Easton while supporting the local businesses without first killing them economically. It sounds like you, Jon, and me have areas of agreement and may be able to come up with some good alternative suggestions. However, I feel that Panto views me as just a Republican enemy, not a citizen, and will never seriously consider any idea from me.
another point of view November 16, 2012 at 09:29 PM
This parking argument is interesting. Seems that there are two issues, maybe three. The city claims that it needs to be reimbursed for ambassador and main street activities. That seems reasonable. The city should not be providing such expensive services to such a small percentage of the population as well as a benefit to one group of merchants over all merchants in the community. If you are an impacted business person, you can always volunteer to reimburse your patrons. Maybe the city should sell meter tokens. The advantage is that the reimbursement of meter tokens would cause patrons to revisit the city to use the tokens since they would have no monetary value other than the meter. I don't really think that it is fair to ask all taxpayers to fund these services which are limited to a small city group. If the meter increases are to control parking, there may be some justification. The meter rates encourage the visitor who wants to spend money over the casual visitor who wants to just occupy space. I don't know if it is fair to charge someone to park for lunch and give that person a free ride for dinner. The growth of restaurant trade may be a direct result of meter policies. A business thrives because its patrons come after the business day when there are no charges for parking. If that is the case then Easton has major problems. A simple solution: either terminate the ambassadors or start writing checks.
Amend November 16, 2012 at 10:00 PM
@APOV- its short-sighted to assume that these programs only benefit a small group of people/merchants when that isn't the case or the focus of these programs. Capacity building is what they are about. I derive no real direct benefit to my business from them. In fact, the merchants usually end up paying to participate in most activities. The real benefit is to the community as a whole. A vibrant downtown filled with residents and businesses benefits everyone, who pay taxes, benefits everyone. A half empty downtown is a drain on us all.
another point of view November 16, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Sorry Amend, your argument does not compute. The revenue contributions from the "vibrant downtown" don't measure up to the contributions coming from the rest of the community. The stated expenditures are out of line in proportion to the tax base of downtown compared to the tax base for the rest of the community. I know that I do not want to sound like this section is being pitted against that section. But, I think that downtowners have to recognize that all sections of the community contribute to a "vibrant community" If you want these activities and want to open your wallet to pay for them, I have no problem. Otherwise, it's a burden for the rest of the community. The rest of the community has needs different from the downtown and should not pay a tax for only downtown's benefit. I resent being labeled "short sighted". But, you are, as always, heavy on innuendo. Raise the meter rates or reduce the costs of Main Street and the Ambassadors. It's rather black and white to me.
Amend November 17, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Thats the point, it's not a black n white issue. It's a community wide issue. You are indeed pitting one section against the other. If that's the mantra, then look to the west ward as that's the largest drain on services, has the densest population and the lowest per capita in the city. Expanding that logic, the west ward should pay higher taxes for the increased police presence and social services required. Why do we all pay for the Weed and Seed program? Is that how we really want to see our community? Further, I don't recall saying that the parking rates shouldn't be raised to support these programs nor did I mention raising taxes as a possible solution. What i said was the programs benefitted the whole community. Either we're one community or we're four separate wards. I prefer unity over division. In my mind, division is short-sighted. There's no innuendo intended or insult directed. It just is.
another point of view November 17, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Investing money into the West Wards does make sense to the entire community. No question-that low income and high density contribute to crime which impacts the community as a whole and undermines a vibrant Easton or downtown or whatever geographic boundary that you choose. It is not a matter of pitting one section against the other. It is a question of balance. Populations according to the 2012 census: Downtown: 2420; West Ward 10,038; South Side: 8457; College Hill: 5348. The Ambassadors is a costly program directed at only four blocks in the Downtown and a very small populated area within the Downtown. Taxpayers should not pay that bill regardless of how successful you think that program is. I think that the city provides more public services for the Downtown in comparison to other areas and that investment is excessive compared to expenditures in more populated and improved areas of the city. One chooses to live in a city such as Easton because of public services. There has to be a correlation to what is paid in taxes to what is received in services. I am not interested in supporting programs such as the Ambassadors which do little for the community as a whole. In fact, in my opinion such programs promote disunity and not community. They are super expensive and take too much in resources and give little return. It may be great for your business, but for me and my neighborhood, we would prefer more police, code inspectors, street lights, etc.,
Amend November 17, 2012 at 03:04 AM
Fine, let's talk balance. Nearly 500,000 people visit this city every year, and the vast number of them visit the downtown, not the neighborhoods. The highest amount of vehicular traffic runs thru the downtown. Its the heart of the city. There's no way around that. It provides real estate taxes, business taxes, EIT, amusement tax, parking revenue and now the commuter tax. In that regard, it is every Eastonian's best interest that the downtown thrives. If we, as a community, don't invest in our downtown in an effort to attract more residents, businesses and visitors to our city, then we are indeed short sighted. The investment in the ambassadors is nominal in comparison to what it would cost us in lost potential to not have them. Trying to pit the west ward against the downtown doesn't change that, nor does it make sense fiscally. Its an emotional reaction, and all it does is divide.
R.D. Frable November 17, 2012 at 03:15 AM
How is this dollar-an-hour scheme handled if we use coins? Can we just get 15 minutes for one quarter, or will we have to pay 50¢ minimum? And Ronnie, you can't just kill leaf collection. The trash haulers aren't just going to absorb those collections, and as was proved with recycling especially after Sandy, no one is just going to take those bags to 500 or some other central location unless the city gives them credits against trash hauling fees.
Amend November 17, 2012 at 03:20 AM
@RF- from what I heard discussed at the meeting, you'll still be able to use quarters. They're even considering the added use of dimes and nickels as well. Use of a debit/credit card would have a dollar minimum.
another point of view November 17, 2012 at 01:16 PM
I think that you need to review your data and your sources. 500,000 is a little low for visitor totals seeing that two of the city's major attractions have significant numbers and are located outside of the downtown. And, that downtown number represents primarily Two Rivers Landing visitors including a majority of school children. The children are invisible; they enter the back door and leave through the same and dare not touch a foot on anything else that is Easton. Yeah, there is a lot of vehicular traffic in the downtown. 40,000 cars travel Route 22 daily. If you took all that Ambassador money and invested in signage and directions you could attract significant numbers to the downtown. And, most vehicles skirt the downtown coming and going to and from New Jersey and not hitting those four blocks tended by the Ambassadors. I have watched Ambassador employees walk past garbage on Bushkill Street which carries ten times the traffic of Northampton. The issue is balance. I would say that Easton survives without the Ambassadors and that 500,000 visitor number-mostly school kids- remains without them. In fact, that number was there before the Ambassadors ever existed. As far as taxes real estate taxes from the downtown only represent less than 20% of the whole city. I seriously question whether anyone can demonstrate any real benefit from this absurdly expensive program. And, commuter taxes-the big numbers will come from the college and county, not downtown.
Amend November 17, 2012 at 01:47 PM
@APOV- actually, the 500,000 number was based on downtown attractions, not city wide. What other attractions in the city draw that number, and are also a benefit to our tax base? The amusement tax raises around $450,000. Parking about the same. 20% of the real estate tax is still 20%. I never implied that only the downtown would generate additional revenue thru the commuter tax, just that it's additional revenue. I'm certain the downtown generates more business taxes than most other areas in the city, and everyone employed pays EIT. The point was that you asked for balance. I was demonstrating how the downtown generates it's fair share of revenue for the city, and that it was short sighted to demonize attempts to build capacity in the downtown thru initiatives like the ambassadors just because you personally don't see that value.
Ronnie DelBacco November 18, 2012 at 12:30 PM
R.D. Frable, Suppose then city residents can deposit their own leaves for free at the site of the annual EAHS Bon Fire. They usually build a huge circle of pallets and fill in the center with burnable debris. Leaves qualify. That gives everyone the opportunity to clean up their leaves, have the kids doing wood collections also grab the leaf bags, and saves the city collection fees and credits. Easton could even foot the bill for disposable paper bags and still save a ton of money over the leaf collection systems and man hours. Keep in mind, it was one example off the top of my head not to be singled out as the only solution. Rather, the start of a discussion on many similar cost cutting measures that should be discussed before increasing fees and taxes. Maybe we can just take the leaves downtown and dump them along Bushkill St to cover the trash the Ambassadors don't pick up there.
Amend November 18, 2012 at 02:24 PM
@Ronnie- the ambassadors aren't tasked with cleaning up Bushkill St as it lies outside of their primary district, tho they will do so occasionally regardless. To stick with their budget, the footprint of the ambassadors was dramatically reduced when the preliminary funding ran dry and the NID effort failed. It's inaccurate to throw rocks at them for not doing something they aren't tasked with doing.

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